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Boy George
Cheapness and Beauty
(Virgin)

Brace yourself for the second -- okay, third, if you count his out-of-nowhere hit with "The Crying Game" from 1992 -- coming of the Boy. Armed with a tell-just-about-everything autobiography (Take It Like a Man) that has sold gobs in England; regularly pumping up the volume as an au courant London club DJ; and brazenly out about his queerness (that took a while, hon), George has also reinvented his pop persona, returning as a, gulp, rocker. If you believe the press poop that accompanies Cheapness and Beauty -- the gaggle of fawning Boy profiles making the magazine rounds obviously do - then George's newfound rockitude was "inspired" by Seventies glam. Inspired perhaps, although, in truth, with the exception of about nine seconds of "Your Love Is What I Am," next to nothing on this thirteen-track disc remotely sounds like the sassy, vacuous, big-beat wonderfulness of Brit glam godettes such as the Sweet, Slade, Suzi Quatro, and his majesty Marc Bolan.

Instead, George and his co-writer John Themis, along with producer Jessica Corcoran, crank the decibels and slather on layers of processed guitars to produce faux rock reminiscent of faux bands such as Tin Machine and the Power Station, or faux solo dudes such as Billy Idol (check out George's curled upper lip on "God Don't Hold a Grudge") and, more to the point, Michael Jackson ("Dirty Diana" would fit snugly here). George comes across considerably more convincing on the jaunty pop of "Same Thing in Reverse" and the title cut, while "Unfinished Business," his indictment of a former lover who has publicly disavowed having ever been involved with the Boy relationship-wise, demonstrates that his eclat with a ballad remains undiminished.

As for his words, well, he brandishes a we're-here-we're-queer placard throughout, gets mad and gets even with chums turned chumps ("Sad," not forgetting "Unfinished Business"), and tells two cautionary tales of drug abuse ("Blindman," "If I Could Fly"). Fine. But it all seems so heart-on-his-sleeve, so Sally Jessy Raphael: "Is it twisted/Is it sick/Mother Nature's little trick/I don't have to feel no shame/In God's image I am made." All of which makes me pine desperately for the Boy's kissing-to-be-clever days leading Culture Club through "Church of the Poison Mind."

By Michael Yockel
Boy George performs with Eve Gallagher at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, November 10, at the Cameo Theatre, 1445 Washington Ave, Miami Beach; 532-0922. Tickets cost $17.

G. Love and Special Sauce
Coast to Coast Motel
(Okeh/Epic)
He's nothing if not derivative, but damn, does he have a good time deriving.

Yes, G. Love and his talented two-man rhythm machine (Special Sauce) are back with a second disc, the followup to their deservedly acclaimed self-titled 1994 debut. Once again the trio is copping a feel off the old blues dudes, the lost stars of rockabilly, and the scat men of jazz. And once again they skillfully interpret the source material, melding these genres with their own B-boy sensibilities and postadolescent zest. The G. Love sound still relies heavily on Jeffrey Clemens's crisp, thumping drums and Jimmy Prescott's wandering bass lines, and neither disappoints. Together these two create the quirky syncopation that perfectly suits G. Love's lazy-tongued vocals, which veer between eager melodic yelps and toneless mumbles.

Even better, on Coast to Coast Motel the hunky front man has broadened his songwriting horizons. "Kiss and Tell," for instance, is distinguished by some exuberant Dixieland horn playing, courtesy of the Rebirth Brass Band. "Everybody" comes off like a post-MTV tribute to Woody Guthrie, with G. Love's strummed guitar and squalling harmonica firmly rooted in folk. "Leaving the City" relies on a jaunty rock riff that would have made Bobby Fuller proud. And the jazzed-out "Sometimes" showcases Love's surprisingly deft fretwork. Talk about diversity -- there's even a tuba blaring on the joyful "Bye Bye Baby."

There are a few duds among the dozen tracks -- the mawkish "Coming Home" is a particularly ill-advised stab at confessional songwriting -- but overall the group has again managed to plunder the old masters in fresh, new ways.

By Steven Almond

Urge Overkill
Exit the Dragon
(Geffen)

Urge Overkill's first album after the success of their 1993 Saturation (not forgetting their contribution to last year's Pulp Fiction soundtrack) is a fairly dark affair. Taking its title from the cut "The Mistake," which builds on allusions to Bruce and Brandon Lee, Kurt Cobain, John Lennon, and this nation's continuing love affair with overindulgence, Exit requires a few spins before starting to sort itself out. When it does, though, the Chicago band's growing thoughtfulness provides a smart coupling with its usual stylish crunch. Highlights include speedy rockers such as "Need Some Air" and the ready-made Top 40 nugget "Take Me," as well as the bouncy "Somebody Else's Body" and the edgy, midtempo stompers "Honesty Files" and "This Is No Place." Not the instant-joy trip that was the previous disc, but even more of a promise-keeper than Saturation fans might have expected.

By Rickey Wright

Smashing Pumpkins
Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
(Virgin)

In recent times, few bands have defied the industry wisdom that cautions against releasing a two-CD collection of new songs. Bruce Springsteen and Guns N' Roses both tried it in 1991, delivering unsellable double albums with the three-card-monte marketing tactic of disguising them as individual CDs, when, in fact, they really belonged together. In the case of Smashing Pumpkins's sprawling 28-song Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, the MTV poster kids pull it off without too much padding or pretension

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